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Thursday, 6 December 2018

DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel 7 - the series ends with Sandkings

DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel came to an end in 1987 with issue 7's Sandkings, an adaptation of a short story by George RR Martin, by Doug Moench and Pat Broderick.

This is, hands down, my favourite issue. It's a great, terrifying story about a man who buys a sort of ant farm. The Sandkings are small crab-like creatures. There are four colours of them, and they build their own castles and have their own wars. They grow to fit whatever size cell they are being kept in.

At first the man is delighted by the sandkings, but when they don't go to war with each other fast enough he starves them until they fight to devour each other. Then he rewards them with lots of food. Each of the four types creates a carving of his face on their castles, though each perceives him slightly differently.

The story nudges its way down a dark path. The man starts pitting his sandkings against other people's killer pets. They triumph every time, but gain a taste for blood.

They also stop seeing the man as a benevolent god, and the way they carve his face shows the madness they see in him, and the contempt they feel for him. This infuriates the guy, who smashes the aquarium he is keeping them in. Far from killing the creatures, this releases them into his house and year, where they build new, larger castles, and continue to grow.

The story goes Little Shop of Horrors for a while. The guy kills a girl he likes, because she doesn't like the way he treats the sandkings. Then he starts luring more women and leaving them to be eaten by the creatures.

He tries to rid himself of them, using poison gas and poisoned food, but the creatures eat everything, and take total control of his property.

The man winds up essentially becoming their slave. He ceases to need to eat, somehow mentally "consuming" what he needs from the maw, the same way the sandkings eat.

He lures all his friends eventually, turning them all over to the sandkings to eat. But the creatures are never satiated, and will not let him escape.

Towards the end the creatures appear to die, although he finds out that they have just gone dormant before taking their next developmental state. He is informed that it was his behaviour that corrupted the sandkings, but that's no surprise. At the end, he tries once more to get free, but winds up captured, and then devoured, by the mutated sandkings, who now all look like miniature versions of himself.

I was hoping for something Game of Thrones-y from this, and I wasn't disappointed. On the one hand, it's a very different story. But the concepts of medieval castles and warfare, and the way religions are created and developed, are both present in this tale.

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